What is an Ensembl release?
Ensembl produces a new version (release) of the website and underlying databases every 2-3 months. This allows us to make new data and analyses available after rigorous quality checking. A new release may include new and/or updated data, such as new species, new genome assemblies, updated gene sets, new variation data, construction of new gene trees, alignments and homologies and annotation of regulatory features. There are also improvements and additions to our web-interface and database structure, including the Perl APIs. The production team at Ensembl coordinates the release cycle, which you can find more detail about, including quality checks, in this article.
You can keep track of our release cycle, including announcements about what's coming up, when a new release is scheduled or live, and our plans for the future on our blog or by following us on Facebook or Twitter.
The release number and a 'permanent link' for any view is shown at the bottom left of most pages in Ensembl. For example, this FAQ was published in April 2013 which corresponds with Ensembl release 71. We encourage users to note this down whenever extracting data from Ensembl, and include this in any publication which uses Ensembl, along with the 'permanent link', if you refer to a web view. One benefit of our release cycle is that you can keep track of when you got data from Ensembl, and go back to old versions, via our archive sites.